'Shot of His Life' November 5, 2019 | Inverness, Ohio By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Preston Summerhays Knocks Pitching Wedge Over Tree for Clinching Birdie, Defeating Bo Jin at Inverness


2019 USGA Championship Recap Home | Results From 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur

This is the first of 15 articles in a series that recaps the 2019 USGA championship season on usga.org over the next seven weeks.

When Preston Summerhays found himself trailing in the 36-hole final of the 72nd U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at historic Inverness Club, he didn’t panic. Instead, he drew from his experience the previous day, when he rallied on the back nine to overcome a pair of deficits.

Summerhays was 3 down to No. 19 seed Austin Greaser after 11 holes in the quarterfinal round, and 2 down after seven holes to Thomas Pagdin in the semifinals. He went on to win 5 of the last 7 holes against Greaser, and 6 out of 7 against Pagdin, employing a similar philosophy each time.

“My mindset was just to keep on playing,” said Summerhays, who also edged 2018 runner-up Akshay Bhatia in the Round of 16. “[Pagdin] had a good first seven holes, and I knew that he’s human. He was going to make some mistakes. I just tried to stay patient.”

When he trailed Bo Jin, of the People’s Republic of China, by three holes late in the morning round of the final, Summerhays kept his cool despite the steamy conditions and won the 17th and 18th holes with birdies to enter the lunch break trailing by just one.

RELATED STORY: U.S. Junior Field Expanding to 264 in 2020

A few hours later, after Summerhays had completed his third straight comeback to claim the Junior Amateur trophy, the club presented him with the flag from the 17th hole as a fitting memento. His performance on the 489-yard par 4 made the difference in his 2-and-1 victory.

In the morning 18, Summerhays had purposely hit his drive on the dogleg-left hole down the adjacent 16th fairway, then knocked a wedge to 35 feet and drained the right-to-left curling putt. In the afternoon, Summerhays hit “the shot of his life,” according to his father and coach, Boyd, to set up a match-clinching birdie that also gave him a berth in the 2020 U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club.

“I don’t even know how to explain how it felt,” said Summerhays, 16, a Utah native who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s just one of my goals being accomplished.”

Summerhays seemed to have taken control as the seesaw match turned to the final nine. He birdied the par-4 10th and 11th holes to assume a 2-up lead, his largest of the day. His lead was reduced to 1 up when he bunkered his approach on the 13th hole and took a bogey. But he retained the lead on the 16th hole as Jin three-putted and Summerhays saved his own bogey from 15 feet after stubbing his first chip shot.

Summerhays again opted to play down the adjacent 16th fairway when they got to No. 17, but he pushed his tee shot and left himself in the rough between the fairways, with a large tree blocking his view.

“It wasn’t a terrible lie, and I had 174 [yards] to the pin,” said Summerhays. “Going downwind, downhill, it really didn’t play 174, it played 145 to the front edge. I was like, I could get a pitching wedge over that tree and land it front edge and roll it back. I hit it great and it ended up going to 8 feet.”

Jin then left his approach on the front of the green, skirted the hole with his long birdie try, then missed the comebacker. With two putts for the win, Summerhays made birdie.

“That's just a shot of a lifetime at the right time in the biggest tournament,” said Boyd Summerhays, who coaches several PGA Tour players, including world No. 14 Tony Finau, and walked the matches with his son. “He'll never forget that and it'll give him confidence when he's in a tough spot.”

Bo Jin, 17, was attempting to become the first player to get into the field as an alternate and win the Junior Amateur.
Scott Hailes is the only other Utah native to win the Junior Amateur. Hailes’ road to the 1995 title included a Round-of-16 win over Boyd Summerhays, Preston’s father. Hailes is Summerhays’ cousin.
“I’m so proud of you, man. I’m getting chills just talking to you. How’s it feel to be a champ?” – Tony Finau, to Preston Summerhays via Facetime after Preston’s win
Each of the finalists’ younger sisters – Grace Summerhays and Jiarui (Joyce) Jin – advanced to match play in the U.S. Girls’ Junior the following week.
“I’ve had a goal since freshman year to play in a tour event before I graduate high school. It’s a huge opportunity that’s going to be amazing in my progression as a player.” – Preston Summerhays, on his 2020 U.S. Open exemption

ICYMI: Other Features From 72nd Junior Am